The living proof that Buddhism works, is the Sangha. Any man or woman who practices the Dharma successfully and realized enlightenment is the Sangha.
The 3rd cornerstone of Buddhism. One of the Triple Gems of Buddhism.
This seems easy to understand but in reality, it is the hardest to relate. The reason for that is due to the 3 afflictions deluding our mind.
This had always been an issue since the beginning of Buddhism.
For example, in the scriptures, there is a story of how a householder ridiculed a monk for eating in an unsightly manner. Likening him to a donkey chewing hay. Naturally, the householder did not know that monk is an Arhat (enlightened disciple)
This story demonstrate how the ordinary people have unrealistic expectation of enlightenment.
If this happened in the Buddha’s time, before the existence of Buddhist imagery and statue, we should realise how much worse it is for us now.
To many people, enlightenment means having a halo around their head, capable of levitating and performing miracles. Naturally, this is a wrong understanding of enlightenment.
For educated Buddhist, another mental trap is the idealistic expectation associated with the holy robe.
When we see men and women wearing the monastic costume, we tend to expect them to behave enlightened or perfect. Or meet some of our basic expectation.
This is a major ignorance that undermine our faith.
Wearing a costume does not mean they are enlightened. They may not even be Buddhist!
Therefore, wearing a religious robe, definitely does not make one a Sangha.
When a reputable monk or nun or lama behave badly, people tend to lose faith in the Triple Gem. That is just plain ignorance on our part.
When the monastic community or a Buddhist behave badly, it doesn’t mean that the Buddha Dharma is not working.
It simply reveal that the erring person whom we adored, was not really practising. Due to our ignorance, we were beguiled.
Many Buddhist beginners have a desire to meet an enlightened person. This is because it gives us the confidence that enlightenment is truly possible.
This is understandable.
However, the main problem with this desire is that we do not realise that we are also part of the equation.
If we become enlightened, we are the Sangha! Try reflecting on this.
Enlightenment is the absence of desire, hatred and ignorance.
If we practice correctly, we should experience the lessening of these 3 factors in our mind. Instead of searching outwardly for others to provide us confidence, isn’t it better to derive confidence from the result of our own practice? We are the living proof that the Dharma works!
Having said that, we shouldn’t be conceited too.
Why is it hard to meet an enlightened person? The clue is in the Buddhist story.
Remember the story of the 1st man who met Buddha? He was impressed by the aura of Buddha and had even mistaken Him to be a God. But when Buddha revealed His true identity, that man basically said ‘ya right” (in terms of our modern language)
And the story of the Arhat being insulted as a donkey?
When our mind is afflicted by ignorance, we cannot recognise enlightenment.
So the best way to deal with our doubt is to reflect inwards. Stop judging other practitioners and examine our own progress. Our gradual perfections are the best testimony of the Triple Gems.
When we are successful in our practice. We know the Dharma works.
PS. ENLIGHTENMENT doesn’t mean we glow like a light bulb or can fly like superman. Enlightenment means we realise the Truth, no longer afflicted by craving, aversion and ignorance. It means that we know for sure we had put a stop to future rebirth.
May all be well and happy.